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Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage of the 1980's [Hardcover]

Kurt Vonnegut
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1991
The American novelist Kurt Vonnegut's second volume of autobiographical writings. They form a memoir of ideas, anecdote and opinion covering such diverse subjects as death in the family, suicidal depression, the future of the planet, Ronald Reagan, Salman Rushdie and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

These 21 essays, combining personal recollections and political reiterations, lack a unifying theme; they are likely to disappoint even Vonnegut fans.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

This is a stimulating if rambling book of essays that discusses everything from the ugliness of the 1988 presidential campaign to male bonding in the stories of Ernest Hemingway. Maybe because Vonnegut has never hung around political speechwriters, he is pessimistic about the future of life on Earth and frankly nostalgic for the days when we were free of the certain knowledge that we would make this planet uninhabitable. Yet on the positive side, he sees in this country a decrease in racism (which he concedes may be only temporary). Some of the ideas here will be familiar to Vonnegut readers, such as the unnecessary bombing of Dresden or the now outrageous fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but all are offered in the hope of improving our chances at survival and often with disarming humor. Moralize, he tells young writers, but be sure to sound reader-friendly, like Cervantes rather than Cotton Mather. Recommended for most collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/91.
- Jack Shreve, Allegany Community Coll., Cumberland, Md.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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First Sentence
Here we have a sequel, not that anyone has clamored for one, to a book called Palm Sunday (1980), a collection of essays and speeches by me, with breezy autobiographical commentary serving as connective tissue and splints and bandages. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars "De Mess We's In" (Amos and Andy) May 10 2002
By L. Dann
To borrow a verb from Hawthorne, I was "purposed" here. Having eaten the garbage of the day's media reports, I picked up this book for the "cleansing" redux. Some bittersweet sorbet it was- here are some of the things that made me laugh.
Charleton Heston played Jesus with shaved armpits.
To describe our nation, he quotes Amos an' Andy, "De mess we's in"
Re: Thomas Jefferson's owning slaves- "It was as though he had an infected growth on the tip of his nose the size of a walnut and everyone thought that was OK."
When KV's father was dying he apologized for calling him 'Bozo.' Then about five minutes later he called him Bozo again.
Here are things that made my heart stop:
The average age of an American to die in Vietnam was 20. (My own son had just joined- against my wishes- the military, at 20.)
If Western Civilization were a person, we would be directing him to War Preparers Anonymous.
That's the kind of stuff you'll read in essays that are distressing and comforting and hilarious- if you know Vonnegut, you know what I'm saying. Personally, I like a bit more fiction, but as I said, I was purposed here, and I think you may be too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brutally honest commentary July 8 2001
Here in this book we get Vonnegut's cynical but honest commentary on everything from talk show hosts to his own experiences with suicidal depression. Some of the chapter's are extremely pessimistic in their outlook, but hit home so well that they can leave you feeling quite down about the human race and it's apparent race headlong towards suicide. However, Kurt's dark sense of humor is here as always and even more prevalent than usual. You'll be laughing out loud at things that are really anything but funny. But that is the genius of Vonnegut, he can have you laughing and wryly amused while reading, but after done, his greater impressions stick in your head and leave you provoking thought. He is truly a gifted writer. Although not as fast-paced as his fiction, this book is a fine and interesting read. Most notable to many readers, surely, will be his perceptions and thoughts on his experiences in World War II and the effect it has since had on him. His religious observations are interestings as well, and funny, to wit: "In order not to appear a spiritual quadripelgic to those trying to get a hold on me, I sometimes say that I am a Unitarian Universalits (I breathe.)" This is certainly a must-read for any Vonnegut fan, but you will want to have devoured a significant amount of his fiction and know a little bit about the man before tackling it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Hopelessness & creativity May 28 2003
It's always interesting to read an autobiographical report on someone's life. You can get a few insights on what to do and what not to do with your own life. As to hopelessness as an avenue to creativity, this SOMETIMES happens. Hopelessness has many legs and often travels into less exaulted fields than creativity. But what Mr. Vonnegut says is well expressed and can serve as a beacon of hope to the down and outers. As to the literary shock jock style of writing throughout the book, it's a attention grabber and also good for laughs. Though Mr. Vonnegut on page 185 does wisely point out the limits of humor. On paper, he is likeable man who seeks an occasional "peak experience" to make life worthwhile. Or if he doesn't seek it, here and there he finds it anyway.
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4.0 out of 5 stars how this book helped me June 27 2000
By A Customer
I read "fate worse than death" during wait for outcome of my husband's heart surgery in Indianapolis hospital. Husband was 42 years old, kids were 11, 9, and 4--failed heart valve, very unexpected. Fate Worse than Death talked about literature as western meditation, versus eastern "uhmmn." Literature as suspension of belief, relief from everyday care. Worked for me. I read, calm as could be--essays from Vonnegut's life. When I finished the book, I started pacing and worrying. Started over to stay calm. Thanks to Kurt for compelling prose to last thru hours valve replacement!.Conclusion--this man is a hoosier. You may move to New York, but you are always home. Thanks--you pulled a thorn from my paw. I owe you. Jen
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5.0 out of 5 stars Because He had it worse than me Nov. 3 1996
By A Customer
As I sat under the only palm tree on the island, I would visualize just how good I really had it. Even though I would most likely be alone I would have my sanity. I had a good life in society and must not take that for granted. Even though I would be away from my family, I would have to be strong and maybe one day soon I would be rescued. Vonnegut however was not that lucky. His life in society was in termoil and definetly hard to bare. Where as my problem was in fact big I would still have my thoughts of home. Vonnegut had no place to turn except for his satiracal writtings. The conents of :Faith Worse Than Death would remind me on the island that at least I had those people in my life that I could strive to see again
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of insight Jan. 3 2003
By A Customer
As a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, I enjoyed the insight that Fates Worse Than Death provided. This book gave me a better sense of Kurt Vonnegut the man, not just the writer and gave me a better appreciation of his other novels.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars For Vonnegut Completionists
You know how Jehovah's Witnesses are always handing out pamphlets to show you the glory of The Lord? Read more
Published 7 months ago by David Burnham
5.0 out of 5 stars Peek Into Vonnegut's Head
These essays give us a rare look in to the mind of a genius. He expounds on subjects ranging from mental illness, family relationships, death and war. Read more
Published on July 29 2003 by Steven J. Drahozal
5.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut--humorous, engaging and entertaining
I prefer non-fiction works and this one from Vonnegut is very entertaining and presents his views of society and the world. Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2001 by "drsullivan34"
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest veiw of Human Acitvity
I read this book a mere month ago, and it's idea and concepts still are freh in my mind. Vonnegut expressed himself the way he did 20 years ago. I absolutly loved this book. Read more
Published on April 4 2000 by starybabe
5.0 out of 5 stars I laughed, I cried... not really.
This is a great book for anyone who likes Kurt Vonnegut. If you enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five, you will enjoy hearing him recount stories about his experience in WWII, and also... Read more
Published on July 31 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars Another tedious, yet interesting, look at the man himself
Oh, great. Another "Autobiographical collage", as though there's anything left to say we really want to here after trudging through "Wampeters, Foma, and... Read more
Published on July 3 1997
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